LaLota discusses a moderate path forward on Israel, Ukraine aid

The New York congressman said he thinks a bill proposed by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and other centrists is the most likely path for foreign aid funding

Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY), one of just eight Republicans supporting a measure to force a floor vote on Israel and Ukraine aid, said he sees a bill proposed by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and other House centrists as the most likely way of passing that funding, but didn’t rule out ultimately supporting the Senate-passed version of the bill being pushed by House Democrats.

LaLota is one of the handful of Republicans supporting an Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and border aid bill led by Fitzpatrick; LaLota signed a discharge petition that seeks to force a floor vote on the bill without support from GOP leadership.

He told Jewish Insider on Friday that “it’s too early to say” whether he would ultimately be open to joining the Democratic discharge petition that aims to call a House vote on the foreign aid bill that passed the Senate, without immigration provisions — not ruling out the possibility, but also appearing to cast doubt on the Democratic petition’s chances.

He highlighted that the Democratic petition hasn’t yet collected signatures from all Democrats — it’s unlikely to do so given that some progressives oppose additional aid to Israel — and said he has “the most hope” in the Fitzpatrick bill as a “reasonable bipartisan solution on an aid package.”

He said that House Republican leadership hadn’t urged him not to sign onto the petition or scolded him for doing so, although House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has been public about his opposition to discharge petition efforts.

LaLota did not say whether House leadership has outlined a plan for moving foreign aid forward, but said Johnson is “fully aware of the urgency of the issue and the desire of specifically the New York Republican delegation to prioritize defeating Hamas.” He said Republicans have and will continue to “push” on the issue with leadership.

He didn’t directly criticize House leadership for putting forward an Israel aid bill last year that also cut funding from the Internal Revenue Service as a funding offset, but said that he has “said since Day One, I don’t need an offset on [emergency] spending.” 

LaLota added, “we ought not to pause, pump the brakes, stall, dither” in emergency situations, noting that such an approach could ultimately slow down funding in the case of natural disasters or other emergencies in the U.S. “We ought not to provide or put into legislation things that would tend to be roadblocks toward an expedient approval.”

The first-term congressman from Long Island said that signing the Fitzpatrick discharge petition was a way of showing his support for Israel.

“Politicians shouldn’t just conduct themselves with words, they should follow that up with actions,” he said. “I’ll continue to put action to my words and ensure Israel knows that America is its strongest ally.”

Fitzpatrick is reportedly working to amend his bill, including adding humanitarian aid for Palestinians, which is a prerequisite for many Democrats. LaLota said his priority is weapons for Israel, but he won’t “draw a line in the sand right now” against any Palestinian aid.

Confronted last week by activists with the anti-war, anti-Israel group CodePink, LaLota blamed Hamas for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, calling on Hamas to return the hostages, according to video of the encounter provided to JI; he said he doesn’t believe Hamas will agree to a cease-fire.

“I think that Israel has the absolute right to defend herself and eradicate Hamas from the land,” he said. “Every dead civilian is unfortunate, and is because of Hamas.”

Speaking to JI, the New York congressman declined to offer his support for a two-state solution in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack, suggesting that it might not be possible under the current circumstances.

“I would want to hear from the Israeli government on what it thinks is best for its path forward,” he said. “But I would note the difficulty in a two-state solution, when one doesn’t respect the other’s right to even exist.”

LaLota said he’s supportive of additional funding for Ukraine, but said he thinks the “most streamlined way to do it” is to strip out humanitarian and budget support funding for the Ukrainian government, providing only military aid to Ukraine with “audit controls.”

LaLota indirectly blasted his state’s senior senator — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — for his speech last week calling for new Israeli elections and the ouster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Without directly referring to Schumer, he said that “the comments that were made by several Democratic officials undermine those national security efforts in Israel are not good for Israel’s security, which in turn are not good for America’s national security.”

LaLota’s district, which encompasses much of Suffolk County, has been the site of antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, including swastikas and other antisemitic content spray-painted in multiple locations across Long Island. He emphasized that it’s incumbent on all lawmakers and public officials to “quickly and clearly condemn every act of antisemitism,” using their public profiles.

The congressman faces a primary challenge from disgraced ex-Rep. George Santos (R-NY), whom LaLota helped boot from Congress last year, as well as a potential general election race against former CNN commentator John Avlon, a Democrat.

He dismissed Santos as a “joke and an embarrassment” whom LaLota predicted won’t qualify for the ballot. “But if he does,” LaLota said, “I look forward to having a campaign about accountability, integrity and service, on which I’ll have the high ground.”

As for Avlon, LaLota brushed him off as an out-of-district carpetbagger, pointing to examples on both sides of the aisle of past candidates who he said have “fit a John Avlon-like profile” and lost because “they had no true connection to the district.”

“We Long Islanders can see through frauds like that, and haven’t supported candidates who have tried to perpetuate that fraud upon the voters,” he said.

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